Hawaii feels like a warm embrace. The warm, smooth air caresses your skin, the vibrant vegetation waves at you as it rustles in the breeze, the relaxed pace of life calms you and truly makes you feel like paradise has personified itself and wrapped you into a comforting hug.
I have just returned from eight days of bliss in Kauai with my sister, mom, aunt, and grandmother. Throughout the trip I felt particularly inspired while writing in my journal, so I’ll be sharing some entries I wrote in this blog post. The above entry I wrote at 5 AM, while sitting outside on our first morning in Hawaii, watching the dark stillness of night slowly drift into a pale, peaceful morning.
This trip was action-packed and unforgettable, so I’ve decided to focus on four topics for ease of reading: the overall feel of the island, the exotic foods, the fun activities we did, and the scenery.
The Overall Feel
The Garden Island, as Kauai is called, has so much natural beauty that my senses remained on high alert the entire trip to avoid missing anything. Everywhere I looked, saturated colors overwhelmed my line of vision, including the piercing blue of the sky, the intense green of the plants, the smooth yellow of the sand, the sharp black of the volcanic rocks, the earthy brown of the mountains and cliffs, and the vibrant pinks, purples, reds, and oranges of the flowers.
The island represents a beautiful collection of different geographies. Postcard-worthy beaches line most of the island’s edges, with the exception of the gigantic cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. Here, multicolored layers of rough, jagged rock dominate the island’s west coast.
Viewing the Na Pali cliffs from the ocean was awesome. While getting thrown around in a boat by the waves, we watched the turquoise water smash violently against the rock and leave streams of white spray sliding down the harsh surface of the cliffs.
Inland, Kauai is composed of forests, canyons, mountains, and small towns. Every few feet you’ll find chickens and roosters running freely, and the friendly locals are always willing to assist, guide, or converse with tourists.
Despite the island’s extreme isolation from the rest of the world (Hawaii holds the record for the longest distance from any other land, and Kauai is the most physically separated of the Hawaiian islands), the entire island has a wonderful, simplistic and authentic culture.
As an avid fruit and fish addict, Hawaii transported me to food heaven. Every morning for breakfast, I had guava-ginseg green tea, locally made mango-ginger granola, and fresh papayas and bananas from the farmer’s market. For dinner, we ate fish specialties including opah, ahi, monchong, and mahi mahi.
The highlight of my food experience was the ability to walk outside our condo and pick up fresh mangoes that had fallen from a tree. I have never had mango that sweet and delicious before, and I probably ate about two a day.
My aunt, grandmother and I also toured Steelgrass Farm, where we tasted strange fruits and amazing chocolate. We sampled tahitian limes, fresh sugar cane, lychees, longons, watermelon radishes, passionfruit, mountain apples, cinnamon pears, ice cream beans, soursop, and raw cacao beans. I fell in love with soursop, a soft, white, juicy fruit covered in spiky green skin. After exciting our tastebuds with exotic fruits, we sampled eleven of the world’s rarest dark chocolates from places including Madagascar, Trinidad, Ecuador, Colombia, and other parts of Hawaii.
As much as I enjoyed the lazy hours spent relaxing on the beach, our week in Kauai was also packed with excitement. We swam in the ocean, walked along the rocky Poipu beach, ventured to many scenic lookouts, hiked in the mountains, played volleyball outside the hotel, snorkeled with turtles, toured an art gallery in Hanapepe, and explored little towns throughout the island.
One especially fun day consisted of visiting the “Secret Falls”, a stunning waterfall that is accurately named because there is only one way to access it. We reached the waterfall by kayaking two miles down the Wailua River, hiking through the dense forest, trudging through a knee-deep stream and crawling up steep, rocky hills. After stopping at the waterfall for a picnic and swimming, we journeyed back through the woods and enjoyed a leisurely kayak home.
My mother, sister and I also zip-lined through the jungle, choosing to go “Flyin’ Hawaiian” style and lay horizontally like superman. The rush of flying over treetops and watching beautiful landscapes whiz by was exhilarating, although at one point I didn’t zipline fast enough to reach the other end so I rolled backwards and remained stuck in the middle of the line. I assumed that hanging horizontally, at least 1,000 feet above the ground would terrify me, but I actually enjoyed the feeling of adrenaline and isolation as I stared down at the vast empty space between my suspended body and the rest of the earth.
Out of all the amazing parts of our week in Kauai, the jaw dropping scenery that was undoubtedly the best. I spent a great deal of time staring out at my surroundings in silence, just trying to take it all in. Instead of rambling on and on about every gorgeous landscape I saw, I’m going to focus on the two most breathtaking scenes by sharing more writing from my journal.
My favorite scene was the first time we stopped the car on the side of the road and looked out at an immense valley. Jagged, mossy mountains towered over each other as smaller hills below broke off into rocky cliffs. Streaks of red clay tore through the rough green canvas of the mountains, creating a multicolored palette of textures and earthtones. In the distance, a powerful waterfall jetted out of the mountainside and added elemental diversity to the endless fortresses of earth.
My other favorite scene was the second highest lookout point. Looking over the western side of the canyon, the mountain ridges split to form a gateway where the sparkling ocean drifted peacefully. Despite the white wave caps that emerged through the rich blue surface, the sea appeared motionless due to our extreme elevation. Rippling layers of lush hills and mountains filled the foreground of the scene, creating contrast between the chaotic earth and the eerie stillness of the ocean.
One factor that appeared at all the different viewpoints of Waimea Canyon was the abundance of red clay. The smooth, sloping formations of the land combined with the vibrant hue of the clay to create a scene you might expect to find in a Dr. Seuss story. Wavy layers of rich mahogany and bold crimson earth molded together to make colorful valleys of velvety terrain. This red clay is actually a specialty of Kauai, and they often infuse it into sea salt for extra minerals.
This was probably the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. The journey to the Queen’s Bath began with a downhill trek through the woods, complete with jurassic park-like vegetation creeping onto the path and frenzies of bird calls echoing off the trees. The forest eventually opened up to reveal a large open space where jagged yet walkable volcanic rocks covered the ground until the edge dropped off into seaside cliffs. The land bended to create small lagoons, where the periwinkle sea swirled and caressed the rough rocks.
After stumbling along the top of the cliffs we found the actual Queen’s Bath, which resembled a large tide pool. I found great happiness floating on my back in the pool and gazing at the contrast between the rugged, intimidating cliffs and the peaceful water. Occasionally the serenity of the pool shattered when a huge wave from the ocean tumbled over the edge of the pool, but the surrounding walls of rock usually acted as a barrier between the blissful pool and the turbulent sea.
Fortunately for us, the sun started to set as we lay in the pool. The sun’s radiance intensified as it sunk lower in the sky and casted sparkling golden rays onto every surface. The black cliffs and the crystal water reflected the light, creating a rosy glow that illuminated the entire scene. Meanwhile, the constant sound of the lively ocean colliding with the cliffs added a sense of wild, natural chaos to the picturesque, blush-colored scene.
As gorgeous as the area was, the subtle feeling of danger lingered. The malicious waves revealed the raw power of the vast ocean, and the steep cliffs sent my stomach cartwheeling every time I looked over the edge. The exhilaration that accompanies that kind of dangerous location only made the experience more hauntingly beautiful.
I would like to point out that I did not take most of these amazing pictures. Thanks to my sister and my aunt for acting as the well-deserving photographers of this trip 🙂